Café owner in Mortlach, Sask., fights for metal art fence to stay

The part-owner of the Little Red Market Café in Mortlach, Sask., says he has been fighting the village for a year to keep the metal art fence that surrounds the patio.

'It’s been really frustrating,' Chad Forrest says of year-long village dispute

Chad Forrest says tearing the fence down wouldn't bring an immediate end to business, but 'it takes away a lot of the aesthetic of a small town little business.' (Submitted by Chad Forrest)

Chad Forrest says he has been fighting his small village for more than a year to keep the metal art fence that surrounds his café's patio standing. But now he appears to be on the verge of losing the battle. 

Forrest, part-owner and chef at the Little Red Market Café in Mortlach, Sask., and his partners bought the café last May.

"We liked the whole package: beautiful little spot, a great little town that has a big, beautiful, wrought-iron, hand-crafted sort of fence."

For him, it was perfect. No one mentioned the fence and Forrest's family moved closer to Mortlach, to Moose Jaw, Sask.

"Four days after we opened, we got a letter from the village saying we had to move it," he said. "It's been a year-long struggle with them to try and find some common sense." 

He said on Tuesday his lawyer received a letter from the village's lawyer that indicated the village would take down the fence if the café didn't — and the owners would be responsible for the bill. 

Mortlach Mayor Dale Domeij said in an email "since this has become a legal issue, I cannot comment."

Domej then said no one would be able to comment on behalf of the village, which has 260 residents. 

Chad Forrest said his family is happy to be part of the community, but 'you get stymied by something like this and you don’t understand why.' (Submitted by Chad Forrest)

Forrest doesn't understand why the fence has to come down. 

"It's a standard street-side patio area, like they have in every city in the world," he said, noting a part of it does extend onto the rural road. 

I don't really want to fight with them. I just want common sense to prevail.- Chad  Forrest , part-owner, Little Red Market  Café

"They [the village] just said that they had a deal with the previous owner that if she sold the business, the new owners would have to move the fence."  

Forrest said that was never communicated to them prior to signing the purchase papers.

He attended a council meeting, where members said the patio's location could be an insurance liability for the town. 

"Accidents happen, and I understand that, but our business is completely insured," Forrest said.

Forrest said there are benefits to the fence beyond aesthetics. 

"The sidewalk is in bad shape. It keeps our customers safe," he said. 

"There's no streetlights on our street, so our fence has a bunch of nice Christmas lights on it and it lights up the road." 

Forrest said the fence also acts as a barrier and stops cars from hitting the building, "which has happened in the past." 

Furthermore, he said it "deters smash-and-grab-style robberies."

Chad Forrest said there aren't streetlights on the road, so the lights on the fence help people on foot navigate at night. (Submitted by Chad Forrest)

He requested Regina's bylaw documents for similar patio setups, so Mortlach could implement them, he said. 

"It's been really frustrating that they are being so difficult when we've shown them how to do it legally."

Calls for referendum 

Tuesday's letter was the catalyst for Forrest starting an online petition directed at Domeij and the Mortlach council. 

"It was an emotional moment for me, if anything. I was floored that this was actually happening."

It calls for a referendum, and says the people of Mortlach should decide if the metal art sign fence should be allowed to stay.

"It's art, more than anything," he said. "I don't really want to fight with them. I just want common sense to prevail."


  • A previous version of this story said Chad Forrest moved to Mortlach. In fact, he moved to Moose Jaw, 44 kilometres from Mortlach.
    Aug 03, 2017 1:42 PM CT